WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters gathered in the nation’s capital and across the country on Saturday to show their support for abortion rights, nearly two weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
A crowd of protesters gathered near the Washington Monument before marching to the Supreme Court, with some in shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies” and “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal.” They pledged to fight to preserve abortion rights, even though some accepted that Roe would most likely be destroyed.
Colleen Lunsford, 42, a lawyer from Arlington, Virginia, brought her 5-year-old daughter Orla with her. She pointed to her daughter and said she was attending the march for “her future and autonomy.”
‘I’m terrified,’ said Mrs Lunsford. “We tried our best to elect a Democratic president and a House and a Senate, and this is still happening.”
More than 450 marches across the country were set to take place on Saturday, said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March, a nonprofit that helped organize the event and other protests in support of women’s rights. Organizers had planned a national abortion rights march before the draft advice was leaked, but they accelerated the event after the advice was published. Ms O’Leary Carmona said she hoped the events would enable protesters to “build power, both civic and electoral.”
“People are mobilizing because they see it’s an hour later than we thought,” she said.
The marches took place after the publication this month of the draft opinion, which showed the Supreme Court appeared poised to overturn Roe, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed the right to abortion. The court’s ruling is not expected until June or early July.
With the midterm elections just a few months away, President Biden and Congressional Democrats hope to use the issue to get voters excited. Democratic senators on Wednesday failed to pass legislation to guarantee abortion rights nationwide, despite opposition from Republicans and a Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
In Washington, Elizabeth Moser, 34, a communications specialist from Burke, Virginia, said she hoped the marches would stimulate voters and politicians.
Although she planned to vote in the midterm elections, she said she is now considering sending people to the polls and texting her friends to encourage them to attend other demonstrations in support of abortion rights.
“I’m trying to build a movement here,” said Ms. Moser, wearing a red bandana and holding up a sign that read, “I’m not quietly going back to the 1950s.”
In Brooklyn, thousands of abortion rights advocates gathered in Cadman Plaza Park before marching to Foley Square in lower Manhattan. Volunteers offered snacks and plates with phrases like “Stand with black women.”
For some, protesting the draft opinion wasn’t just about protecting the right to abortion.
Lillian Penafiel, 35, and her wife, Emi Penafiel, 44, were concerned about what a ruling would mean for marriage equality, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.
“They’ve been very clear, especially what it said, that our rights will also be threatened, so that’s why we’re nervous,” said Emi Penafiel. “They’re coming after it.”
Madeleine Ngo reported from Washington, and Lola Fadulu From New York.